Getting his own win

At each school day’s end, there’s always a man wearing spectacles on the sidelines grasping a pen and a reporter’s notebook.

For 45 years, Arv Koontz has covered thousands of student-athletes in Jackson County.

On Sunday, Koontz was recognized for his commitment and dedication to his craft by his peers.

At Valle Vista Golf Club in Greenwood, Koontz was inducted with five others into the Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.

Before Koontz took to the stage for a speech, former Tribune editor Dan Davis introduced the inductee.

“Think about that number of ballgames, matches and meets,” Davis said. “The many thousands of student-athletes, parents and grandparents over those many years. Lives touched by the hard work and dedication to community journalism. That’s what our work is about.”

When Koontz took to the stage, he said he would probably be the most nervous speaker on the day.

After talking about his career in sports writing, Koontz said it was an honor to be recognized by his peers.

Koontz appreciates awards, but he doesn’t continue to work for trophies.

While he has lived in the area for years, Koontz’s career didn’t start in Jackson County.

He graduated from Hiawatha High School in Kirkland, Illinois, in 1961 before taking on his first job at the DeKalb Chronicle.

“When I was in high school, I was an all-sport manager,” Koontz said. “I went to a 1A school. I was the football, basketball and baseball manager. I called all of the results in from Kirkland to the DeKalb Chronicle.”

In his free time, Koontz would write short sports articles in the high school’s weekly paper.

“One day, I called a baseball game in during my senior year, and I asked if they needed any help in sports,” Koontz said. “At first, they said, ‘No.’ The next time I called, they said, ‘Come over and talk to us.’ Two weeks out of high school, I started over there.”

At DeKalb, Koontz covered numerous athletes that went on to play at major colleges and in the pros.

“During my 11 years in DeKalb, I covered football and basketball games at Sycamore High School that Buck Suhr played in,” Koontz said. “I also got to see athletes like Quinn Buckner and Dan Issel play basketball and Ken Anderson play football in high school in Illinois.

“My favorite all-time basketball game was in December of 1967 between DeKalb and East Aurora, two powerhouse teams,” he said. “Both teams were in the 50s at halftime, and seven of the 10 starters on the floor that night went on to play college basketball, including places like Northwestern, Illinois, Stanford and Kansas, plus some small colleges.”

In 1971, Koontz lost his job at the Chronicle but quickly found another spot.

Koontz got in contact with Seymour Daily Tribune photographer Pat Callahan, who also was a former Chronicle employee.

“I contacted Pat, and he called me telling me they needed a sports editor,” Koontz said. “I came down (to Seymour) in March of 1972 on a Friday afternoon. Seymour and Jennings County were going to play in the sectional finals on Saturday night. I came in and talked to the editor at the time, Charles Brown. He talked to the publisher, and they hired me on the spot. I started working for The Tribune on Monday.”

Koontz worked as sports editor from 1972 to 2001.

In his first few years, life moved fast for Koontz.

Outside of work, Koontz started dating his wife, Bonnie, in 1973. The two married in 1975, went to the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Canada, and bought a house in 1977.

“That was a busy time,” Koontz joked.

With a house and Arv and Bonnie’s careers in Jackson County, they planned on staying.

Bonnie, who taught for more than three decades at Crothersville High School, has gone to games with Arv for years.

“During those early years at The Trib, fellow sports writer Jim Plump introduced Arv to the love of his life, Bonnie, who would become Arv’s wife, on-the-road statistician, co-pilot/navigator and IT guru,” Davis said.

With roles changing in the newsroom, Koontz left The Tribune to work for The Banner in 2001.

Koontz worked for The Banner for six years before returning to The Tribune in 2007.

With some new hires in place in Seymour, he came back to The Tribune with the understanding that he would retire in two years, when he turned 65.

While Koontz retired from full-time work in 2009, he has worked part time for The Tribune ever since.

In Jackson County, Koontz estimates he has covered more than 1,500 high school basketball games in 85 gyms in Indiana.

He has worked with six Seymour High School coaches who were inducted into basketball, football, golf, swimming and wrestling halls of fame.

Koontz has covered state finals in 12 different sports, seeing Seymour win state championships in boys golf, girls golf and baseball and athletes from Seymour and Brownstown who were individual state champions in track, swimming and golf.

In 2000, Koontz covered the U.S. Olympic swim trials in Indianapolis when Seymour’s Patrick Calhoun made the team.

Outside of Jackson County’s schools, Koontz has covered events such as the opening of the Basketball Hall of Fame in New Castle and the opening of Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Koontz said the biggest change in the industry over the years has been in technology.

When he started, it was all typewriters and sheet film cameras.

This past winter, Koontz sent almost every basketball game story wirelessly for the first time due to deadline changes.

Most days in The Tribune, you can find a Senior Focus, which features senior-athletes from the county. He has done those for 10 years, and it has become one of his favorite parts of his job today.

“One of the things I enjoy now are the Senior Focus interviews,” Koontz said. “You get to speak with a lot of athletes. Some of them are honor students or members of National Honor Society.”

Koontz doesn’t plan on stopping covering games, matches and meets any time soon.

While athletes graduate each year, Koontz said the relationships built with the students, families and coaches are everlasting.

After all of these years, Koontz still doesn’t have a single favorite sport.

“I couldn’t say just one sport,” Koontz said. “That is one of the things I’ve enjoyed about this job — the changing of seasons from fall to winter to spring.”

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”An illustrious career” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

Arv Koontz has achieved countless milestones during his career as a sportswriter. These are a few of his personal highlights through the years:

  • Served as president of the Indiana Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association in 1989 and received the association’s Corky Lamm Sportswriter of the Year award in 1999.
  • Received the Indiana High School Swimming Coaches Association publicity award in 1977.
  • Inducted into the Seymour Bowling Association Hall of Fame in 1985 as a contributor and also received a publicity award from the Seymour Women’s Bowling Association.
  • Received an IHSAA Distinguished Service Media Award in 1989-90.
  • Received the Indiana Interscholastic Athletic Administrators’ Association Distinguished Service Award for District 5 in 2000.
  • Received the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association Virgil Sweet Award for District 3 in 2012.
  • Received an Indiana Football Coaches Association publicity award in 1996.